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This large beech treeline is not an uncommon feature around Ireland. Beech hedging is often planted as a means of delineating boundaries, even a few hundred years ago, this was common practice. Over time, some trees become dominant and slowly wind their way upwards, trunks swelling, boughs reaching out in all directions, creating a dense canopy of green to purple leaves, creating large lines of trees, still referred to as hedges, like the famous Dark Hedges in northern Antrim, a filming location from Game of Thrones. It’s no surprise that beech trees are considered fantastical, with a ceiling of leaves like stained glass and tree trunks like immense stone columns, you can see why beech groves are sometimes called cathedrals.
Beech trees were introduced into Ireland around 1,000 years ago and, though not technically native (the cutoff point being 10,000 years ago after the ice receded), they have since become naturalised across the country. They can grow relatively quickly and block out light for plants beneath them and so are at times accused of being invaders in our native deciduous forests, but their peeling bark can provide home to bats and when they eventually break down and decay, their huge size provides a whole ecosystem for bugs and fungi.
Fun fact: Beech bark is thin, delicate and scars easily. Initials and graffiti marked years ago can still be seen on older trees as the bark is unable to heal itself.
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